You don’t have to step outside to find lush greenery, chirping birds and bubbling fountains at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House in West Palm Beach, Florida — just head toward the stairs. Designed by Lee W. Robinson and Kyle Johnson, the Chinoiserie Garden Pavilion — part of the 10,000-square-foot Mediterranean mansion transformed by 22 design firms — brings the beauty of the outdoors in with verdant moss and an eye-catching aviary. Intrigued by the intricate and whimsical elements decorating the winding stairway, we spoke to the designers to get the scoop on how the space came together. Here are the six things that surprised us most.
1. That show-stopping pagoda birdcage hanging in the stairway is a whopping 12-feet tall. “I thought, ‘Why do another chandelier?’ Anything that’s really going to take people’s breath away is going to cost a million dollars,” says Robinson. He had the oversized birdcage, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Aurora Borealis, custom made for the show house as his piece de resistance.
2. Speaking of the birdcage, the five birds flitting about inside are actually named for famous designers — Mario Buatta, Sister Parish, Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper and Albert Hadley. If you pay a visit to the house, you’ll notice that Dorothy and Albert have paired off. You may even catch the two lovebirds kissing.
3. The moss wall that wraps around the staircase, installed by Green Wallscapes, is made with preserved moss and succulents. It is designed so that nothing needs to be watered; it won’t fade in sunlight, and it has a lifespan of about three years. Talk about gardening made easy.
4. Between installing the birdcage, tenting the ceiling, putting in the living wall and hanging the wallcoverings, Robinson’s team had to put up and take down scaffolding four separate times.
5. The bejeweled spider and dragonfly at the bottom of the stairs were made with real gemstones. Adorned with sapphires, emeralds, rubies and diamonds, each insect is worth about $500,000. On top of that, the spider’s legs and the dragonfly’s wings are fully articulated.
6. There are a number of period pieces throughout the space, including items from the Ming and Tang dynasties. And at the end of the upstairs hall, there is a lovely bust of Athena from Robinson’s personal collection that dates all the way back to 200 B.C.